Lessons Learned: Preparing The House For Severe Winter Weather

February 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

I hope this is the final chapter in my Snowpocalypse 2014 entries for the year — but you never know!

We rode out the last two severe winter weather episodes at the house.  I had no intention of leaving the house and hoped the utilities would hold up.  Okay, maybe not the Internet access — being able to work from home means you’re expected to work even when snowed in.

We only suffered the minor inconvenience of having our sewer back up during the first storm.  Luckily we caught it in time and didn’t have to deal with any nasty clean-ups.  After the weather cleared up, we had it taken care of 48hrs after it began.  That and reading about the experiences of others prompted me to plan for a few different situations should we have a repeat of nasty weather the remainder of this winter or next.

It’s a short list but of big problems should we have to face one of them without being more prepared than we were:

  1. . The last time my chimney was swept was the summer I purchased my house in 2006.  I hadn’t checked the flue since 2010 and the last time we used the fireplace was 2011.  (It didn’t really get cold enough long enough to bother with it in 2012.)  So before it started getting too cold this year, I inspected the chimney and noticed it could use a cleaning and promptly put it on the never-gets-done-to-do-list.  It wasn’t bad enough that I thought something catastrophic would happen had we needed it, but it could use a cleaning  Just to be on the safe side.  Should things have really gotten bad, I would have used it anyway.  But house fires are no fun.  Especially when your house burns leaving you in the cold.  However, to use a fireplace you need firewood.  Preferably split wood.
  2. The limited amount of firewood we have (probably 2-3 days worth of 24/7 burning) hasn’t been split yet.  It’s been under a tarp in the back yard for the past couple years and last I checked hadn’t split itself.  Another item on that aforementioned to-do list.
  3. We have a small Honda generator for the occasional power outage and I had pulled it out the week before the first storm to look it over.  In doing so, I discovered that I forgot to flush the carburetor before putting it away last time it was used and it wouldn’t run without the choke on.  I didn’t find any gunk in the carburetor but flushed it out anyway.  That didn’t solve the problem.  In the event of a power outage, I anticipated using the generator to run the furnace blower should we use electricity but that wasn’t exactly about to happen given it’s current condition.  I believe it’s just bad gas but the issue is still unresolved at the moment.
  4. More potable water on hand.  You’d think we’d learned our lesson after having a water main to the neighborhood break late last year and going without for a short period of time — but we haven’t.  I could filter water out of a rain barrel (yuck) or I could just set back several gallons just in case.  Not having immediate access to water is no joke.  Ask 600,000 folks up in West Virginia about that chemical spill a couple months ago.
  5. Along with having potable water on hand, having a plan in place for sewage isn’t a bad idea, either.  Our sewer line backed up during the first freeze and it was a call to the plumber and a couple days before that was worked out.  Luckily we’ve got great neighbors that allowed us to use their facilities in the meantime — but if this were a neighorhood-wide problem we’d all be up that creek without a paddle.  I haven’t broken down and purchased one of those portable loos yet but I’m thinking it’s a better idea than the alternative. o.O
  6. Alternative heating.  Assuming an electrical issue and the fireplace is out, there’s the question of how to heat the home.  This was at the fore-front of my mind now that we’ve got a baby.  We weren’t in much danger of losing power, but it could have happened and we’re short on (ideal) methods of keeping warm.  I’ve investigated a handful of alternative heating methods (kerosene, propane, etc) but haven’t decided on anything just yet.  Looks like we’ve got three more seasons for me to think about it. 🙂

Those are just a few of the things that came to mind next time we face severe winter weather at the house.  I hope you consider your own personal situation and what you could (should?) have done differently for next time.  For many of us, that next time was the week after I began keeping this list.  I’ll be more prepared next time and hope you will too.

Aaron Melton

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